Legends, myths and storytelling in Greenland

By Verified Expert

Which story did your mom, dad or any other adult tell you as a child, when she or he tucked you in?

I know in Norway they have stories about trolling, in Denmark there is a bunch of stories by H.C. Andersen, and here in Greenland we also have many stories. 

In Greenland, we have many different stories, and I´ll like to tell you a few of them. 

Sculpture in Nuuk
Mother of the sea

As kids, we used to through stones in the water yelling “Sassumap arnaa, kamagit!” which means “mother of the sea, get angry!” I think it was just to see if she really existed, and she did! because the waves always got bigger and came back at us. At least that´s what we believed – hi hi. You can see the story in the following movie, which is shown on the airplane to and from Greenland  :

From the sea to the sky

During winter, we have the northern lights, in Greenland. The name in Greenlandic is: “Arsarnerit,” which means “the one’s playing football.”

They say it is our dead ancestors playing football with a walrus skull, and that if a kid were naughty they would take its head and play with that as a ball. So we would come home before it got dark during winter. 

Northen Lights
Northern lights in Nuuk

Lonely walkers – Qivittoq

In the summertime, we have many hours of sun, and north of the arctic circle has sun 24/7. The midnight sun. So during summer break, we could stay up longer and didn´t have any northern lights to be afraid of. Instead, we were told not to go too far, otherwise, the “Qivittoq” would take us. 

I don´t have a picture of a “Qivittoq,” which is a mountain wanderer, because I never met one! 🙂  

There are many stories about these, because back in the day they were many, as they say. It could, for instance, be when two men fought for a woman, one would lose. The loser could be shouted and laughed at and could get embarrassed and had to leave the settlement.

Back then the Inuit lived in very small communities, smaller than today, and if someone made a fool out of another person, he wouldn´t be able to live there anymore. So he would leave the settlement and go live for himself in the mountains. Or if a person had done something cruelly he or she would leave of their own choice.

Nature is huge and harsh in Greenland, so to survive this man would learn to adapt and live like the animals. The story goes, that they would get supernatural forces, get fur and could even fly, etc. So everyone would be afraid of these creatures, and the elder hunters told that they sometimes during their hunting have crossed paths with one or more.

And these stories go from mouth to mouth, from place to another, and I bet they developed the story so it gets scarier for each telling. So we would never go too far when we went out to play with our friends. At least not my sister and I 🙂 

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